The Jacksonville Jaguars running back room is as talented as it has ever been. Travis Etienne had a really good year in 2022. But he has shown a burst this preseason that was not there last year. Their backup, Tank Bigsby, is big, strong, fast, and talented. Last year’s backup running back, Jamychal Hasty, is back and made some huge plays down the stretch in 2022. D’Ernest Johnson looked really good at times in Cleveland, especially in 2021. And he has shown vision and patience thus far in Jacksonville. All of that together means that the Jacksonville Jaguars have a good stable of backs that should be one of the team’s best position groups.
The Jacksonville Jaguars Running Backs Are Some of the Best in the NFL
Potential is one of the most overrated qualities any NFL player can have. JaMarcus Russell, Tim Couch, and (insert the name of almost any Jaguar top-10 pick in the 2000s here) had a ton of potential. That “potential” was never reached. This year, the Jaguars running backs have the “potential” to be the next Fred Taylor/MJD combo. The four running backs discussed below were so good in the preseason the team turned away from last year’s fifth-round pick Snoop Conner. Etienne and Bigsby should share the bulk of the load, but Hasty and Johnson have some talent as well. The question in Jacksonville is whether or not that potential will be reached.
Travis Etienne – RB 1
Etienne was a star at Clemson with Trevor Lawrence. When the Urban Meyer-led Jaguars drafted him, Meyer made it known that Etienne was his second choice. He was drafted 25th overall in the same draft as Lawrence, but directly after the draft, Meyer made it known he was hoping for Kadarius Toney to fall to Jacksonville. Toney was drafted 20th by the Giants. The Jaguars also already had a 1,000-yard rusher in James Robinson. The consensus was that Etienne was brought in to add a different dimension to the offense, similar to what Toney could have brought. Many believed that Etienne was going to come in, catch a bunch of passes, and be used in open space more than in the backfield as a running back.
Instead, Etienne has turned into, in the NFL, what he always was in college…a feature back. He rushed for 1,125 yards at 5.1 yards per carry last year and is the workhorse of the Jacksonville Jaguars running backs. Etienne has the speed to get outside, the power to run between the tackles, and the vision to break open game-changing runs. He is one of the most complete backs in the NFL, and he and Trevor Lawrence have a lot of chemistry from playing together for the past seven years. Look for Etienne to have a great year.
Tank Bigsby – RB 2
With a name like Tank Bigsby, one would expect a bruising, downhill back. A running back who lowers his shoulder and runs over people rather than around him. During his career at Auburn, he was often used in a one-back set where he was given the ball and asked to run between the tackles. That was Auburn’s offense under former head coach Bryan Harsin.
What people do not realize about Tank is that he is much more than a power runner. He ran a 4.56 40 at the combine. He is agile and can make people miss. Tank, as he is known, never gives up on a run. His biggest weakness is as a receiver out of the backfield. Questionable hands and subpar routes make him a liability on third down. At the same time, he was the seventh leading rusher in Auburn University history after just three years, and he should make an immediate impact in Jacksonville.
Jamycal Hasty – RB 3
Jamychal Hasty showed himself to be a serviceable backup from time to time in 2022. He is still listed as the number three back, but Johnson could get more playing time. Hasty is only 5’8 and plays smaller than the other three backs on the roster. He has good hands and has shown a tendency to play well catching passes out of the backfield. Hasty may see a little time as a third-down back because he is the only other running back with experience in Jacksonville. He is a serviceable blocker as well.
D’Ernest Johnson – RB 4
The Jaguars went out and signed D’Ernest Johnson to a one-year deal for a reason. After a strong year in 2021, Johnson struggled to find the field last year. He rushed for 534 yards in 2021 but had only four carries for 17 yards in 2022. Johnson will be looking for redemption in Jacksonville. He is a good short-yardage back with a nice burst. Look for Johnson to move up the depth chart fairly quickly and end the year as RB 3 for the Jaguars.
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